Monday, December 18, 2023

Gaudete Sunday

Dear Parishioners,
The liturgical season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas. It was sometimes called Little Lent or St. Martin's Lent because it began on the feast of St. Martin of Tours (November 11). The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday—from the Latin word “rejoice.” We rejoice because the Lord is near. Advent is halfway completed. Priests have the option of wearing a rose colored vestment and we light the rose candle of the advent wreath.
To me, the season of Advent is often treated like a neglected step-child. Society seems to overlook this minor penitential season and move right into Christmas. There is no fasting, sacrifice or spiritual preparation but Christmas parties, holiday shopping and increased celebration. Unfortunately, when the actual Christmas season begins with the Mass of Christmas Eve, many people will soon thereafter take down the decorations and the tree. Christmas seems to end all too abruptly within the actual Christmas season.
How often we are driven by the consumer mentality as the stores will begin preparing for Valentines Day and Presidents Day, immediately following those after-Christmas sales. Does everything have to be about buying and owning many things? I once read this thought-provoking saying on a t-shirt: He who dies with the most possessions still dies.
I believe in the importance of person and relationship over things and possessions. Christmas-time can have some wonderful effects when families come together and people socialize with both families and friends. People can be extraordinarily generous and kind as well.
But the essential meaning of Christmas should never be lost: God became a man. He revealed His life to us and spent time with us. He lived with us and died for us. Many messages distract from this one.  But the coming of Jesus Christ is truly the focal point of all human history. Why do even Christians sometimes miss or forget this truth?
What will it take to bring more people to realize the importance of Jesus Christ? Dynamic preaching?  Vibrant parishes? A plethora of activities? Better evangelization and outreach? A natural disaster?  War? An act of terrorism like 9-11? Sickness and death? God alone knows. 
I think that first and foremost there has to be more of a focus on prayer and conversion—a change of heart—within our parishes and families. The glamour of sin and the illusory happiness that it may temporarily bring has a choke hold on the world today. While many may not directly deny the existence of God, far too many live in such a way that His effect on our lives is negligible or non-existent.
Use the remaining time of Advent in the way it was intended. Prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ. Go to confession (the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation). Pray, fast, read Sacred Scripture, be charitable. Come visit Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
When Christmas actually arrives (Christmas eve), we will be much better off spiritually.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Fr. Ed Namiotka

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